The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón The sequel comes out in the States next month — just in time for my birthday — so I’m picking up the first two as a refresher/build-up. :)

The Shadow of the Wind always reminded me of Alexandre Dumas meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with a little Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark thrown in. It’s a complex, gothic literary mystery set in Barcelona following the Spanish Civil War. The book opens when young Daniel Sempere is taken by his bookseller father to see The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a magical labyrinth of books the world has, well, forgotten, guarded by an ancient man named Isaac. Daniel is allowed to pick one book from the collection with the understanding that he will protect it, and he is drawn to a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He loves the book and tries to seek out other works by Carax, only to learn that almost no one has heard of him — and those who have know only that someone out there is hellbent on destroying everything the man had ever written. Years later, a sinister figure using the name of one of Carax’s characters attempts to buy Daniel’s copy of the book with the intention of destroying it, and Daniel enlists the help of a former political prisoner turned “bibliographic advisor” to help uncover what happened to Carax and why anyone would want to destroy the man’s life work.

There are several layers to this book - Daniel and Fermin’s investigation, the memories of people who knew Julian as a young man, Daniel’s longing for two different women in his life, and the threat posed to Fermin by a dangerous police Inspector. There’s adventure, romance, magical realism, and a little political intrigue. But most of all, there’s Zafon’s gorgeous prose. There are moments where the plot begins to slow down a little, but I keep turning the pages to see what sentence I will want to underline next and eventually the plot begins to build back up again.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. At the heart of the many mysteries in this story is the love of reading and a deep appreciation for the role that books play in our lives: “Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” It’s this love of books that drives Daniel to discover what happened to Julian Carax, but it’s also what draws me so lovingly to Carlos Ruiz Zafon.